Section: News

KSJP walkout demands Kenyon’s divestment and disclosure

KSJP walkout demands Kenyon’s divestment and disclosure

A tent outside of Ransom Hall | THEA MILLENSON-WILENS

On Wednesday, Kenyon Students Justice for Palestine (KSJP) hosted a walkout in front of Ransom Hall from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. KSJP encouraged students and faculty to walk out of their classes to stand in solidarity with Palestine. 

On April 25, KSJP sent an email to the Kenyon community announcing the protest. “As of last week, Gaza has been under bombardment for over two hundred days,” KSJP wrote. “In light of the mass starvation, dislocation and occupation that Palestinians are suffering, students on campuses across the country have launched protests demanding that their universities divest from weapons manufacturing in Israel and the United States.” 

The walkout began with student-protestors convening on Ransom Lawn, carrying signs that read “from the river to the sea,” “free Palestine” and other rallying slogans. There were a few tents set up on the lawn, which were taken down by 6 p.m. Prior to the walkout, KSJP requested that those attending wear masks to prioritize COVID-19 safety in order to participate. 

At the walkout, KSJP read out their rules of conduct for the protest, which they also emailed to the student body. These rules included not engaging with Campus Safety or law enforcement officers, redirecting anyone from the media to tents where they could speak with media-trained liaisons, ignoring counter protestors and agitators, not using hate speech, adhering to the College’s policy on protests and demonstrations and leaving pathways and entrances clear during the walkout. 

KSJP provided water, masks, sunscreen and educational materials at tables set up on Middle Path. There was also a table where anyone could scan a QR code to donate to Hanaa Ibrahim ’22 in a fundraiser to help Ibrahim’s family in Gaza escape from the devastation there. 

At 11:15 a.m., prior to the walkout, KSJP sent a list of demands to the College and the student body via an all-student email. These demands, which were then read out at the walkout, included calling for the College to disclose their investments, to divest from any corporations “actively engaging in the violation of Palestinian life and dignity,” to release a public statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and to protect Palestinian students and their allies from verbal and physical repression, including protecting their rights to free speech and expression. 

Once the demands had been read, KSJP hosted numerous student and faculty speakers who discussed their experiences as Jewish or Palestinian members of the Kenyon community, read speeches about the violence in Gaza and called the Kenyon community to action. 

“By showing up here, you’ve already taken the first step. Now, keep showing up,” Dorothy Yaqub ’26 said to the crowd, before giving recommendations to students that wish to support Palestine in the next few months. “When you go home for the summer, go to local protests, donate to a fundraiser, call your representative. Use every resource at your disposal — your time, your money, your body. Never stop applying pressure.” She urged students to bring activism into their personal lives by talking to friends and family and sharing posts on social media.

Benji Rothman ’26 discussed his own Jewish heritage to those gathered on the lawn. “America, hear me speak. I am not your pawn, we Jews are not your pawn. You free us too, as well as the people of Palestine, and you free us from the association with fascism when you free Palestine from foreign governments. Kenyon, hear me speak. We must divest from Elbit Systems. Beyond the fact Elbit arms Israel, they channel our money to military operations, which oppress people all across the Middle East and on our border with Mexico. End Elbit, free Palestine and save our Jewish soul.” 

Kenyon has not confirmed whether or not it has investments in Elbit Systems. However, in their document of demands, KSJP wrote that “Kenyon College’s investments are currently handled by the firm Cornerstone Partners LLC, which have investments in the Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems.” 

When the speakers had concluded, KSJP leaders led protestors in a loop around campus down Middle Path and to Eaton Center, where the Offices of Accounting, Finance, Campus Events, Human Resources and Civil Rights are located, before proceeding past the College Relations Center to Bailey House where the Office of the Provost and the Office of Green Initiatives are located. 

As they marched, protestors repeated chants such as “Free, free Palestine,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry, Palestine will never die,”“Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes,” “Hey hey, ho ho, Israel has got to go” and “One, two, three, four, occupation is no more, five, six, seven, eight, Israel is an apartheid state.” Some chants were specific to the College, including “From Gambier to Palestine, occupation is a crime,” “Palestine is our demand, no peace on stolen land,” “Kenyon, Kenyon, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” “Stop the use of our tuition for Israel killing children” and other chants. When the protest reached Eaton Center and Bailey House, protesters stopped for a few moments to chant “Disclose” and “Divest” repeatedly. 

When protestors returned to Ransom Lawn, KSJP announced that the official protest had concluded, though they emphasized that students were welcome to stay for an unaffiliated open mic that some were hosting in support of Palestine at 2 p.m., as well as a film screening at 5 p.m. At the end of the protest, KSJP member Rebecca Renner ’24 announced that many students would be driving to The Ohio State University (OSU) to support the encampment there. “We’re trying to organize as many people as possible to head to OSU. We need to support the big universities’ encampments — there will be a huge police presence. If you have a car, if you can drive and want to drive people to OSU, come to me and we’ll get people to ride with you.”

KSJP Executive Board member Molly Orr ’24 outlined KSJP’s future goals in an interview with the Collegian, saying, “We’re closing down and looking towards next semester and keeping the momentum that we have from this event, which was so wonderful to see so many people here today. So we’re really looking forward to continuing that energy in the future.”

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